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Toxic Sludge Expected to Enter Lake Powell Today

Toxic Sludge Expected to Enter Lake Powell Today
August 12
10:43 2015

Troy Wilde

PHOENIX – Toxic sludge from the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado is expected to enter Lake Powell today.

Lake Powell in Utah and Lake Mead in Nevada are the two primary reservoirs for the Colorado River. Trevor Baggiore, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s water quality division, said testing thus far shows that the spill has not affected Arizona’s surface, ground or drinking water.

“We’re still doing calculations to make sure we understand what the worst-case scenario looks like,” he said. “Ultimately because of the 272 river miles to Lake Powell and then the dispersion through Lake Powell, we don’t anticipate anything that we are going to see in Arizona. We want to monitor to make sure that that’s the case.”

The spill last week dumped 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River, which becomes the San Juan River and then flows into Lake Powell. The Environmental Protection Agency said its own crews accidentally caused the release of the water containing dissolved metals from the abandoned Gold King Mine. The agency said it’s still testing the sludge for toxicity levels, and is treating contaminated water in containment ponds.

Baggiore said it may take years to know the potential long-term impact of the spill, both on human life and wildlife.

“The issues with heavy metals that are found in the water that got spilled is that those are long-term chronic issues, not so much acute issues,” he said. “There was a potential for some level of fish kills and things like that, but it hasn’t been seen.”

The spill caused bans on using water for almost any purpose from the Animas and San Juan rivers in areas of New Mexico, Utah and the Navajo Nation. The EPA does not anticipate lifting the water-use ban until Monday at the earliest.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality website is


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